Aired May 5, 2013 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube clip: http://youtu.be/Vb03UPLHc2U
Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of May 5th, 2013.
So many of my friends and family and colleagues have been having a difficult year, I thought it would be fun to take a breather and do what I love more than anything. No, not eating herring in wine sauce while watching Jerry Springer. I mean telling jokes. Cracking a couple of funnies, and then analyzing and learning from their wisdom.
A priest and a Rabbi are next-door neighbors, so they decide to buy an automobile together for carpooling to work. They come out of the dealership with a spanking-new Nissan and bring it to the priest’s driveway. The priest goes into his house and comes out with a bowl of water. He begins sprinkling this all over the hood.
“What are you doing?” the Rabbi asks.
“It’s a new car,” says the Priest. “It needs to be blessed and baptized.”
Soon, the priest finishes his blessing, only to see the Rabbi coming out of the garage with a hacksaw.
“What’s that for?” says the priest.
The Rabbi begins sawing two inches off the tailpipe. “You have your rituals; I have mine.”
From this joke, we learn that every religion has its own seemingly archaic and silly practices. We do what we do because our parents did them, and our grandparents did them, and we’d feel a little queasy if we didn’t continue the tradition. Like serving fruitcake at Christmas or raisin kugel on Passover. Nobody wants these things but . . . they have to be done.
What I like about this joke is that it’s also about one-upsmanship. When the Priest does his thing, the Rabbi is forced to be riding in a baptized car. Only fair that the Rebbe gets to say, “This is my vehicle, too. If I have to ride under your holy water, you gotta live with a snipped tip.” I just wonder: if the Nissan lasts for 13 years, will the Rabbi throw it a huge party with long speeches, a lousy deejay, and the car jacked up on a hydraulic lift and carried around the room by drunken mechanics? “Today I am a hybrid.” And years later, when the engine dies, the Priest can hang a cross on the rear-view mirror and read selected passages from the manual, while the Rabbi puts the car in salvage with a closed hood and a tfillin bag in the glove compartment. Again, fair’s fair.
A robber breaks into the house of an Orthodox Jew. No one’s home, but the thief hears a voice say, “Be careful. HaShem is watching you.”
The thief whirls around. “Who said that?”
“Be careful. HaShem is watching you.”
The thief notices a parrot in a cage. He sighs with relief. “Stupid parrot. Tell me, birdie, what’s your name?”
“My name is Moses,” says the parrot.
“Moses?” says the thief. “Who names a parrot `Moses’?”
Says the bird, “Same person who named the rottweiler behind you `HaShem.'”
What we learn from this joke is that wrongdoing has its consequences, even if they are not immediately visible. This criminal chooses a house because he thinks it’s empty; easy to steal from, easy to escape. He is disabused of this notion first by a little birdie and then by a dog that, presumably, will tear him a new one from nose to pupick.
So, the next time you want to do something wrong, and you assume you’ll get away with it because no one’s around or they’re not paying attention or you don’t even care, just remember, there’s a dog named “God” waiting in the yard for ya. He may not maul you immediately, but he remembers your smell. And years later, you’re gonna meet that dog again in a dark alley. You can move toward the light at the end of that alley, but you gotta get past fido first. If you did some small bad things, maybe the dog’ll pish on your leg and let you pass. If you really hurt people, well, there are worse things than having a wild animal rip you open and chew on your intestines. I’m not sure what those worse things would be, but they must be out there.
Last joke: “Mr. Feinbaum,” says the Rabbi. “It’s been years since you’ve come to Saturday services. So nice that you came this morning. To what do I owe?”
“Actually, it’s very shameful,” says Feinbaum. “The only reason I came was: I lost my hat.”
“Your hat?” says the Rabbi. “I don’t understand.”
“Earlier this week, I lost my hat. I thought I would come to shul, look on the coat rack and steal someone else’s. But then I heard your sermon, all about the Ten Commandments, and I immediately changed my mind.”
“That’s wonderful,” says the Rebbe. “See the way HaShem works? But tell me, what part of the sermon got to you? Was it when I was going over `Thou Shalt Not Steal?'”
“Actually, no,” says Mr. Feinbaum. “When you came to, `Thou Shalt Not
Commit Adultery,’ I remembered where I left my hat.”
When I tell this joke, my congregants sometimes ask me, “Rabbi, which is worse? Stealing or committing adultery?” I have to think about this because in many ways, they’re similar. They both involve disruption and deceit. It’s just that in one, you’re taking something away, and in the other, you’re putting something in. With stealing, you remove something valuable and appreciated. With adultery, you take something that’s no longer appreciated and of rapidly diminishing value. Finally, with stealing, you hurry to a pawn shop to get rid of the spoils. With adultery, you hurry to a clinic to get rid of the rash. Not that I would know such things from personal experience, of course. I am, of course, proudly faithful to my dear wife, Miriam Libby, a strong, opinionated Jewish woman. So who needs a Rottweiler?
I’m kidding, honey, I’m kidding! This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches in Great Neck, New York.
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